A large number of SA students are in debt and 25% have store cards - here's what they are buying and how to avoid the trap

University students. Illustration. Photographed by Klaus Vedfelt
University students. Illustration. Photographed by Klaus Vedfelt
Klaus Vedfelt

According to College Education Theme, the average South African student is in debt. Students spend an average of R2 702 each month – far more than the average South African who spends R2 100. This is according to the most recent Student Village Student Spend Survey.

Most students receive money from family members, student loans, and student funding projects. However, out of all the students who receive funds, only a small percent of them save. These students save up to R540 a month. 

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One would imagine that a student does not have much to spend on, excluding groceries; however, they spend on the same things the average South African spends on.

College Education Theme confirms that students' money goes towards rent, vehicle repayments, petrol, and medical costs. A large amount also goes to some non-essentials like clothing, computer games, and alcohol.

One in four students has retail cards with Edgars, Markham and Truworths being the most popular. An alarming 42% of students aren't aware of how much interest is charged on their accounts.

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To avoid the debt trap while you are a student, here are Gumtree's top tips for getting the ultimate student experience.


You are probably going to be looking for a combination of quiet, close enough to campus for convenience (especially if you don’t have a car), as well as affordability. Whether you want to live alone, with a friend or in a digs, make sure to compare different living spaces' cost before committing to one.


The next thing you would need to be looking for is second-hand furniture. There are probably student chat groups for these, or you can use a reputable online used items store.


Buy and sell your textbooks, you don’t need to get brand new ones. We know textbooks can be incredibly expensive but the deal with getting them second-hand is not only are they cheaper but they usually come with helpful notes (thanks to the previous owner).

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If you are needing transport to get around, many of the major cities across SA have various forms of public transportation. If you are looking for more of a permanent means of transportation, whether that be a scooter or car, be sure to check out pre-owned options.


Work hard but remember to have fun and make the most of your time being a student. Time flies and sooner or later you’ll be putting your goodies up for sale for other students to purchase

What were your varsity money hacks? Tell us here.

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